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MPEG-DASH is now industry essential

While NAB 2012 was approaching, Will Law was pushing forward MPEG-DASH on this blog as "a single [video] format that can be supported across a common ecosystem of content and services, all the way from the encoder down the chain to the end consumer" with the potential to "translate into an industry with a deeper feature set and a steeper innovation curve". What is the situation after IBC 2013? Did MPEG-DASH successfully handle this industry spread to allow a world of streamlined media workflows?

Let's agree that the general perspective provided by MPEG-DASH is quite appealing for most online video professionals, with the target of drastically reducing the number of Adaptive Bitrate streaming formats to support. The recent move of Widevine dropping proprietary packaging in favor of DASH clearly goes in this direction, as well as the positive efforts of Microsoft to translate Smooth Streaming to DASH through a new generation of PlayReady DRM and new DASH-enabled player frameworks. After having recently focused on HLS support in its client implementations, Adobe now gets back to DASH with announcement of early 2014 support, which will be a major event if DASH finally comes to the huge installed basis of Flash Players and supersedes Adobe HDS format.

A main characteristic of DASH is to focus on manifest and video segment organization, delegating restrictions on codecs, containers and even transport modes to profiles. The positive side of this approach is that it conveys openness and brings flexibility to the standard. But it also brings a complexity factor: numerous interactions with other standards and standardization bodies to offer a systemic approach. This partly explains why the DASH standardization process is taking some time despite all efforts deployed by the MPEG consortium since late 2011 with the first draft standard publication. The intermediary observation that can be derived from this situation is that the standardization work is still not finished as major complementary standards like Common Encryption and multi-DRM still require industry collaboration efforts. Nevertheless, the MPEG-DASH standard has become a strategic asset for the entire video industry, considering upcoming Ultra-HD video distribution challenges.